Peace officers are widely defined, and include:
- Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Estevan, or Weyburn police officers;
- Saskatchewan Highway Patrol;
- Conservation officers;
- Canadian Forces officers;
- Customs officers;
- Wardens, and more.
Public mischief charges commonly arise out of false 9-1-1 calls requesting the assistance of police, paramedics, or firefighters. When a 9-1-1 call is made, emergency response units are obligated to attend to the purported need. If a false call or allegation is made, it wastes significant public resources. This charge is also commonly laid against individuals who make false allegations against an innocent person.
While the Saskatoon and Regina police services do not keep records on charges of public mischief, instances of ‘swatting’ have made the news, demonstrating how seriously these cases are taken. Similar to public mischief, ‘swatting’ wastes significant public resources, as it involves a prank caller making a false report to the police with the intention of having emergency vehicles dispatched.
Investigation of Public Mischief Charges in Saskatchewan
Investigations of public mischief charges in Saskatchewan are typically initiated by the peace officer alleged to have been misled, the alleged victim of false accusations (or relative or witness), or it is ordered by the court. Because peace officers and public officers have the power to arrest people, a charge may only be supported by the statement of the officer. The police will request a written or videotaped statement from the complainant and any other witnesses and then initiate an investigation.
The Regina and Saskatoon police services take public mischief crimes very seriously, as they impede law enforcement. The police will typically engage in a thorough investigation to find sufficient evidence to charge. After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they have collected known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Public Mischief Charges in Saskatchewan
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
For most common public mischief charges, it is not unusual for police to release you at the scene. Police will provide you with an Appearance Notice document outlining your charges, and any appearances you must make.
If the police feel that your circumstances require more onerous conditions they may require you to sign an Undertaking.
This document will outline your charges and include any specific conditions you must follow, including being prohibited from:
- Leaving the province; and/or
- Alcohol consumption.
Though it is unlikely for most public mischief charges, in some cases, a formal bail hearing is necessary to secure your release.
In the event that a bail hearing is necessary, you will likely be transferred to a provincial correctional facility to wait for your bail hearing. If you are a male, you will be transferred to the nearest of the following: the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre, the Prince Albert Provincial Correctional Centre, or the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre. If you are a female, you will be transferred to the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert. In some cases, you may be held at the local RCMP detachment or municipal police cells.
The bail hearing can be held within as little as 24 hours, a period of time that starts from the moment of arrest or detention. However, the Crown can request up to three days to prepare for your bail hearing and may ask the court for longer. An effective defence lawyer will ensure that your bail hearing occurs as soon as possible so that you are not in custody for any longer than necessary.
The Regina Provincial Correctional Centre address is:
Regina Provincial Correctional Centre
4040E 9th Avenue North
Regina, SK S4P 3A6
Tel: (306) 924-9000
The Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre address is:
Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre
910 60 Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 2H6
Tel: (306) 956-8800
The Prince Albert Correctional Centre address is:
Prince Albert Correctional Centre
3021 1 Avenue West
Prince Albert, SK S6V 6G1
Tel: (306) 953-3000
In Prince Albert, the Pine Grove Correctional Centre address is:
Pine Grove Correctional Centre
1700 7 Avenue North-East
Spruce Home, SK S0J 2N0
Tel: (306) 953-3100
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. Unless the detained person is a minor, the police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Given these difficulties, while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal process and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private. If you choose to exercise this right, the police must stop questioning you until you have had the opportunity to do so.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail.
We will immediately do the following:
- Call into the correctional centre where you are being held and speak to you.
- Contact the prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offending?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for a public mischief charge, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit) possible.
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public. This may sometimes be difficult in an assault case, but not impossible.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review. Such reviews are conducted at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan.
Where can I pay for bail for public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
If you or a loved one are charged with public mischief in Saskatchewan and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The mode by which you pay the cash deposit will depend on the courthouse at which your bail hearing is held. Your defence lawyer will advise you on the procedures specific to your location and will be able to explain the options for payment to you, or to a loved one who is making the payment on your behalf.
How do I change my release conditions for public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
Release on bail with public mischief charges may require either a surety, cash or no-cash deposit.
Beyond that, you may face tight restrictions, including conditions to refrain from:
- Using drugs or alcohol;
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew);
- Breaking any laws;
- Possessing weapons;
- Visiting certain places; and/or
The judge may also impose additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved;
- Reporting to probation;
- Attending counselling; and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history;
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage;
- Your physical and mental condition;
- The nature of the alleged offence; and
- The likelihood that you will flee.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you follow your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Public Mischief Charges in Saskatchewan
Public mischief is treated as a hybrid offence in Canada. This means that the Crown can choose to prosecute you summarily or by way of indictment. Your punishment will vary depending on how the Crown chooses to proceed.
The potential penalties can range anywhere from:
- A discharge (i.e. a finding of guilt, but no criminal conviction);
- A fine;
- Incarceration; and/or
Where the offence is more serious, for example, if there was a significant waste of resources or a more harmful impact on the complainant, the Crown will often seek jail time to deter future behaviour.
The Code outlines the punishments for public mischief as follows:
- Summary: Available punishments are a fine, probation, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years; or
- Indictment: Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
Some aggravating factors that increase the likelihood of jail time are in cases where:
- The offence was committed while out on bail;
- The offence was committed for the benefit of, in association with, or at the direction of a criminal organization;
- The offence involved the use of a prohibited firearm; and
- The accused is not a resident of Canada.
The potential sentences available to you will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- The extent of public resources wasted;
- The nature of the false allegations;
- The relationship between you and any alleged victim;
- Your criminal history; and
- Other relevant personal factors.
In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a public mischief conviction, the conviction can also have a negative impact on your future. For example, you may have trouble securing employment in the field of your choice.
This is especially for the case for roles that require:
- Interacting with children;
- Interacting with the elderly; and/or
- Other vulnerable sectors of society.
The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also hinder immigration and travel and raise child custody issues.
For these reasons, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all possible penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured that our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the severe consequences that stem from a criminal conviction for public mischief. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Public Mischief Charges in Saskatchewan
What are the best defences to public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
In public mischief cases, the defences that may be available to you depend on the facts of your case.
In general, the best defences are:
- Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you misleading the peace officer or other basic elements of the offence. This could include:
- No mental intent: A common defence available in public mischief cases is that you did not intend to mislead the peace officer. A basic example would be if you reported an offence that you mistakenly believed occurred, which did not.
- Mistake of fact: A conviction for public mischief must rest on the fact that you knew it was a peace or public officer that you were misleading. For example, you cannot be convicted of misleading an officer working undercover if they did not identify themselves as such, as the required knowledge would be absent.
- Identity: In some circumstances where the offence was not recorded by surveillance footage, or the footage is poor quality, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator based on the poor quality of the footage. To effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi establishing where you were at the time of the offence.
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence.
The Crown is required to prove that you not only misled a peace officer to engage in or continue an investigation, but that you intended to do so. While the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.
The availability and strength of any defence depend entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of various potential defences in public mischief cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the court at trial. Even if you believe that you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
If you have been charged with public mischief in Saskatchewan, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Take detailed notes about your version of events to provide to your lawyer;
- Collecting and maintaining all documents and records about the event;
- Gathering a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Logging any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts of your case. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
To be truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Securing proof of employment;
- Securing reference letters;
- Enrolling in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Securing a record of prescriptions; and
- Securing a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence (or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against public mischief charges in Saskatchewan?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
Below are a couple of notable cases dealing with various aspects of public mischief charges:
In R v Stack, 2005 SKQB 191 the accused was charged with public mischief for falsely reporting that his van had been stolen, despite knowing where his van was located. The evening before he had abandoned it at a nearby fairgrounds after being chased by the police. The court determined the accused’s intent was to mislead the police by reporting the van stolen, and he was found guilty of public mischief.
In R v Brown, 2010 SKPC 75 the accused made false reports that a robbery and theft had been committed when it had not. At issue was the identity of the accused, who claimed it was her twin sister who had placed the call. The court determined that based on the evidence it was reasonable that the accused had made the call given her general vicinity at the material time and her possession of the cellphone which had placed the call. She was found guilty of public mischief.
Most of the information above relates to simple public mischief cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific. The circumstances of your case will likely further complicate the matter.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of public mischief lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a strategy that targets your successful defence.